Certain chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgical treatments associated with specific cancers can have lasting effects on a person’s fertility. Therefore, freezing eggs, ovarian tissue or sperm can be a good idea before starting these treatments. Sometimes, this must be performed urgently so as not to delay the start of cancer treatment. Additionally, women with certain conditions such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may be concerned about their ability to conceive in the future, and may choose to freeze their eggs in case they require IVF later in life.
A woman (or couple) may want to delay trying for a baby for various reasons: they are either not relationally or financially ready for a child, or they simply want to pursue professional goals first. Given that a woman’s fertility declines with age, egg freezing allows women to take control of their fertility, giving them the freedom to choose when they will have a child.
Eggs collected for freezing are retrieved using exactly the same procedure as that used in a regular IVF cycle. To collect as many eggs as possible, the ovaries are stimulated with self-injected medicine for 8–14 days. During this time, we will use ultrasound monitoring to help determine the best time for egg collection.
Egg collection will occur onsite at Newlife IVF, involving a 15–20-minute surgery under sedation. On average, 8–15 eggs are collected. From this collection, mature eggs are identified, frozen and stored until a time when you might choose to use them. At that time, the eggs will be thawed and used as part of the normal IVF process.
In urgent medical situations, such as when cancer treatment is required, eggs can be collected within 12–14 days of seeing a Newlife IVF fertility specialist.
Ovarian tissue freezing is recommended for patients who need urgent fertility preservation where it is not possible to freeze eggs because of time constraints. It is not the recommended approach for elective fertility preservation.
Removal of ovarian tissue for freezing requires surgery under general anaesthesia. It involves making some small incisions (laparoscopic or keyhole surgery) in your abdomen allowing removal of a wedge of ovarian tissue.
The ovarian tissue will be frozen and stored, until a time when you are ready for re-implantation.
Re-implantation will also occur in surgery under general anaesthesia. Once successfully implanted, the ovarian tissue will take a number of months to start producing hormones and eggs. At this stage, IVF will likely be used to conceive. However, there is still also the potential for natural conception.
Sperm samples are usually self-collected at the clinic in our private amenities. The number of collections required will depend on the quality of your sperm. However, if you have very low numbers of sperm, collection may require a testicular biopsy instead. During this procedure, sperm are collected by passing a fine needle directly into the testicle under local or general anaesthesia. The collected sperm are then frozen and stored until a time when you might choose to use them. At this time, the sperm will be thawed and used as part of the normal IVF process.
Newlife IVF is committed to reasonable pricing, in line with our belief that fertility care, including egg and sperm freezing, should be accessible and affordable to all. Detailed costs for each procedure are outlined on our fees page.
It is important to understand that freezing your eggs, ovarian tissue or sperm does not guarantee that you will have a baby in the future. It is only one step in the process and the birth of a healthy baby still requires successful fertilisation, embryo growth, embryo transfer and ongoing pregnancy. However, despite this uncertainty, freezing your eggs, ovarian tissue or sperm is still an important step for men and women seeking to preserve their fertility.
For patients who are preserving their fertility for medical reasons, there is the option to freeze embryos. Freezing embryos requires successful fertilisation of the egg first, followed by growth. This takes you two steps further in the IVF process, meaning there are fewer hurdles to overcome in the future for a successful, ongoing pregnancy. Therefore, freezing embryos rather than eggs has the potential to address some of the uncertainty that arises from freezing eggs alone.
However, there is a trade-off. Freezing embryos removes flexibility – the woman relinquishes sole control over the embryos (as they have been fertilised with sperm) and cannot genetically change who the father of that embryo (future child) will be. Dependent on a person’s situation, this trade-off may or may not be acceptable. Therefore, the decision to freeze embryos rather than eggs, is highly personal and dependent on a person’s circumstances and preferences. If you require fertility preservation for medical reasons and this is something you are considering, our fertility specialists will be happy to discuss the options available to you.
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Fertility speciliast Dr Amber Kennedy discusses the term 'ovarian reserve' and the role egg freezing plays in fertilty preservation.Learn more
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